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Consumer and internet watchdogs join forces to regulate digital platforms

Australia’s consumer and internet watchdogs will streamline the way they regulate digital platforms as the federal government attempts to crack down on big tech.

The Digital Platform Regulators Forum has been formed to jointly scrutinise internet search engines, social media services, private messaging services, electronic marketplaces and other platforms.

The forum will comprise the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Australian Communications and Media Authority and the offices of the Australian Information Commissioner and the eSafety Commissioner.

Camera IconACCC chair Rod Sims says the forum will increase co-operation between its member agencies. NCA NewsWire / Christian Gilles Credit: News Corp Australia

Its formation comes amid legislative reforms that the Morrison government hopes will strengthen Australia’s online safety regime.

The government’s proposed “anti-trolling” Bill that would overhaul defamation law for online comments is the subject of a parliamentary inquiry.

The legislation demands social media giants collect the personal details of Australian-based users to make it easier to identify them.

The Bill would grant victims of defamatory comments the power to ask for the identity of anonymous posters or use a new court order to unmask them.

However, broadcaster Erin Molan told the inquiry that the mechanisms provided by the Bill would be cost-prohibitive and inaccessible for everyday Australians.

Ms Molan is one of the nation’s most high-profile victim of online trolling who has been a prominent advocate for improving people’s safety on social media.

ACCC chair Rod Sims said the new digital regulators forum would increase co-operation between its member agencies as they navigate the challenges of managing the internet.

Sky News 25th Anniversary Photography
Camera IconErin Molan is a high-profile victim of internet trolling. Justin Lloyd Credit: News Corp Australia

The ACCC’s role in the new forum is to scrutinise digital platforms in relation to competition and the effects on consumers, while the other agencies focus on regulating media services, protecting privacy and promoting safety online.

“Collaboration is vital as we consider whether further regulatory reforms are needed to support competition and protect Australian consumers online,” Mr Sims said.

“Since the ACCC began examining digital platform services in 2017, we have observed harms to competition, consumers, and business users in a range of areas dominated by large digital platforms.”

According to its terms of reference, the Digital Platform Regulators Forum is not a decision-making body and has no effect on each member agency’s existing regulatory powers or responsibilities.

It will be led by a rotating chair and secretariat in positions that will change hands every six months.

By agreement among all existing members, other relevant Australian regulatory agencies may be invited to join or attend meetings.

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